I want to share with you all one of my most exciting achievement. I live in a small 16-flat scheme in a crowded by-lane of Civil Lines. Being one of the older buildings of the area, my flat has very little parking space, leave aside open garden. Yet, hold your breath….each of the 16 flats get vegetables grown in our own apartment at least once in a fortnight. This has been possible because we in the flat scheme evolved an environment-friendly way. It is with great pride that I claim that we could be the most environmentally friendly flat scheme of the city and I want to share the benefits with you.
It was barely 4 years back, when returning from my CMCA class, I met Shreya in my lane. I had as it is been talking and discussing the various problems ailing our city at our CMCA meeting. While chatting with Shreya, both of us were subjected to a very disturbing and disgusting sight. Our narrow lane was littered with tatters of used sanitary napkins. She wondered aloud whether there was no way we could dispose off the napkins without stray dogs and cats ripping at them. We mulled the spread of infections as well as the conventional embarrassment attached to the issue.
Shreya acted as a triger for me since Shashi Masi and me had as it is been discussing ways and means to handle waste at source. I had just got the details for the Ashudhinashak (the Indian Incenerator) which was especially used for sanitary napkins disposal. I am against incinerators in principle, because of the toxins they release. But with little option at that time, we bought one for the building. I made sure it was placed in a corner where it would not affect anyone.
After a meeting with all my building residents and their consent, I took into account the types of waste and their quantities. I needed to work on the 3 R’s,,Reduce Reuse and Recycle.
Step 1-To begin with we distributed cloth bags to all.
Step 2- Distributed Green and Red Bins to every apartment for segregation of waste. This needed that the domestic help first be sensitised. We actually took a meeting of all the bai’s in the various houses and distributed segregation charts so that there would be no confusion as to what will go in which bin. Since I wanted to start the 2 bin – 1 bag system, the Wet Dry and Rejects waste needed a big bag because of the volume of plastic.
Step 3- This involved educating the person who came for waste collection of the building. The person also needed sensitisation on how to separate and where to put what. The first 4-5 months was a task, with me monitoring, losing my temper, keep explaining time and again till we finally got it right.
Step 4- That was when we started thinking differently about the wet waste. After some discussion we ordered for a set of tumblers for composting from Mumbai. This step can happen only when proper segregation is happening at source at individual household level. I got the compostor after about fifteen days of placing the order. Now we started thinking on proper disposal of dry waste. We started with collecting newspaper raddi from every apartment. It was sold collectively and the proceeds were used to buy green garbage bags for the households. This GREEN plastic garbage bag is bio-degradable. We also allocated a place in the parking area to collect Re-Cycleables. Every once in 15 days, even this is sold by the Society and the amount given to the two women who look after the Composting unit and monitor the Ashudhinashak.
Step 5- Then we started dealing with E Waste. Whenever we clean the cupboards, batteries or tube-lights are replaced. We buy new gadgets, use light series for festivals and then discard them very easily in the mixed bin or just give it to a waste collector without even giving a thought to the fact that a leaked battery could cause a blast at the waste landfill.
So every 3 months we collect electronic waste and give it to the official re-cycler.
Step 6- Tiers, paint – boxes have been used to beautify the common area. Discarded wood logs have also been picked from streets to use as part of beautification.
Step 7- Civil Lines has got a good green cover, hence we have a lot of leaves falling in all the 3 seasons. For this we have taken a Leaf Compostor of 1 ton. In this we not put leaves collected from our premises but also those in the lane leading to the society. After this experience and good results, we bought another thermophilic compostor for the Society.
Step 8- Also got Rain Water Harvesting done.
Now with all the ready compost, we have started growing vegetables directly in the manure. This is a very rich and natural compost made from our own wet waste, free of any chemical or pesticides. And this is how our whole society with its mini vegetable plot actually gives organic veggies to its residents every once in a while.
Now we have adopted the entire lane for maintenance and plantation. This is not my journey just for myself or my building, but for my city and its people. I invite all of you to replicate this model so that we have a model city – healthy, green and unpolluted.